Let someone else cook. This isn't really a cheap option, but it can save you time and effort, which is worth something. Costco has a dinner-in-a-box it says will feed eight people for $150. Local grocery stores and restaurants may have similar deals for less. Or you can simply go out to eat at a restaurant. You don't even have to eat turkey; you can emulate that scene in "A Christmas Story" where the family winds up at the Chinese joint.


Host a brunch.
As cheap as turkey can be, eggs and pancakes are even cheaper. Hosting a day-of or day-after brunch allows you to spend time with friends and loved ones without going into hock. You can go alcohol-free or serve mimosas with domestic sparkling wine instead of more-expensive Champagne.

Plan carefully. Still have the urge to host that picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell feast? The good news is that Thanksgiving is one of the cheaper holidays to host, if you plan ahead and make smart choices.

"Thanksgiving should not be an expensive holiday," wrote Sarah Nelson Miller of Beaverton, Ore. "Turkey is less than a dollar a pound. Potatoes are super cheap. A can of pumpkin is maybe $1.50. A bag of cranberries another $1.50. Flour, butter, sugar . . . all can be gotten for very little. People who break the bank cooking for this holiday are just trying to justify the acres of granite and stainless steel appliances they bought for their kitchens."

Or maybe they're just inexperienced, as I was. The first thing you need to do is ditch the pretensions. No heritage birds or organic sausage stuffing -- the thrifty stick to the basics, including frozen birds that can be had for $5 or less. Brine them overnight, and no one will be the wiser.

Allison Burnell of Reston, Va., wrote that she buys her staples weeks in advance on sale.

"You have to be prepared, know what you need, and then look for it -- I keep a list in my purse," Burnell wrote. "I also have a good Dollar Store with decent food items in it that I can stock up on for the big day -- canned french cut green beans for the green bean casserole, $1 bread to toast for the stuffing, even fancy little jars of olives, pickles and the like. I'm a bargain hunter year-round, so it comes easily."

Whatever else you need, consider borrowing or buying secondhand. Goodwill is a good place to buy roasting pans and other kitchen items you might need, my buddy Marla Jo Fisher noted. And keep your eyes peeled for sales after Thanksgiving that might make hosting cheaper next year.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

"I bought my turkey roasting pan at last year's after-Thanksgiving sale marked down from $20 to $3," Fisher wrote.

Now that's a deal to be thankful for.

Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.